Row brews over Simpson-Daniel fitness

A club versus country row is brewing between England and Gloucester over the fitness and selection of the winger James Simpson-Daniel.

Gloucester had wanted to select Simpson-Daniel, who was cleared by his surgeon to play in the European Cup last weekend, for their Powergen Cup quarter-final tie against West Country neighbours Bristol on Saturday.

But the England medical team felt the player needed two more weeks for rehabilitation. They went back to the surgeon and he reversed his original decision and agreed that Simpson-Daniel needed more time.

But although Gloucester's director of rugby, Nigel Melville, has now decided not to pick Simpson-Daniel for the Bristol match, he did not rule out picking the player for the Premiership match the following week against Worcester - which would not please England.

"I won't pick him against Bristol," said Melville yesterday, "but we will see how he is before the Worcester game. We want to look after players and I won't play them if they are injured."

Last night it emerged that Simpson-Daniel was scheduled to see a third surgeon for a definitive assessment.

The shoulder operation had kept Simpson-Daniel out for two months, but he made a troublefree comeback in the Heineken Cup defeat against Stade Français last Sunday, staying on for the whole match.

Earlier yesterday, when still considering Simpson-Daniel for the Bristol game, Melville was reported as saying: "England are saying James needs another two weeks rest. They want him for international rugby, we want him for what is a very important game for us. There is a conflict of interests and we could lose out." England's concern is understandable. Head coach Andy Robinson has seen his threequarter line disappear. Three frontline centres - Mike Tindall, Will Greenwood and Stuart Abbott - are injured (Tindall having sustained a further injury when he cut his hand and needed 30 stitches, after an accident in the gym).

Although Simpson-Daniel is a wing, he has played at outside-centre before, and there is every chance Robinson might consider picking the Gloucester man in that position.

The club versus country thing is not confined to England. The Wales coach Mike Ruddock is pessimistic about his chances of assembling a full squad for a training camp the weekend after next.

Five members of the 30-man squad named by Ruddock yesterday ply their trade either in France or in England, and one of them, Mefin Davies of Gloucester, looks as if he will definitely be turning out for his club after Melville said: "Mefin is itching to play. He wants to play against Worcester and I will pick him for that game."

The other England-based player is Colin Charvis, who has a foot injury, and Ruddock said: "The initial prognosis is that he will not be fit for Newcastle's Premiership match against Saracens that weekend." But Ruddock is resigned to being without fly-half and chief play-maker Stephen Jones whose club Clermont Auvergne have a crucial relegation match against Bayonne that weekend, and he is not building up his hopes that Narbonne will release lock Gareth Llewellyn, or that captain Gareth Thomas will be allowed back until he has turned out for Toulouse.

The situation underlined the concern Ruddock feels about players seeking clubs outside the Principality. "The lesson of all this is to get these players back playing in Wales so that we can mobilise a full-strength squad immediately."

The one he has assembled held just a couple of surprises, the inclusion of uncapped 21-year-old Cardiff prop John Yapp and the recall of Newport-Gwent Dragons lock Ian Gough.

Former England and British and Irish Lions captain Martin Johnson confirmed that he will not be going to New Zealand with the Lions this summer because he will be appearing in a testimonial game at Twickenham against a Jonah Lomu XV on the same day the Lions play the first game of their 11-match tour.

WALES SQUAD

BACKS: G Thomas (Toulouse, capt), K Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Williams (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Neath-Swansea Ospreys), H Luscombe (Newport Gwent Dragons), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), S Parker (Neath-Swansea Ospreys), G Henson (Neath-Swansea Ospreys), C Sweeney (Newport Gwent Dragons), Stephen Jones (Clermont Auvergne), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets), G Cooper (Newport Gwent Dragons), M Phillips (Llanelli Scarlets).

FORWARDS: A Jones (Neath-Swansea Ospreys), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), M Davies (Gloucester), R McBryde (Llanelli Scarlets), Steve Jones (Newport Gwent Dragons), B Cockbain (Neath-Swansea Ospreys), G Llewellyn (Narbonne), R Sidoli (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), I Gough (Newport Gwent Dragons), D Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), J Thomas (Neath-Swansea Ospreys), C Charvis (Newcastle), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), M Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Jones (Neath-Swansea Ospreys).

One extra player will be added to squad

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